CuiousPages - fiction and nonfiction
CuriousPages - fiction and nonfiction
The following evening I waited at home, watching through the window. And the rain poured, heavy, probing, inescapable. I looked out across the square and saw three figures walking my way, a blur through the rain. I undid the latch on my front door and waited for the knock. I watched the floor and imagined their progress and in my mind I could only see them as a blur, even as they came near, as though my mind were incapable of comprehending what was about to happen. And then the knock sounded. I opened the door and saw only two of the figures. Benedict entered, carrying a black suitcase. He removed his overcoat and hung it in the hall. His companion removed his coat and I saw it was the angry man from the underground. His rage had now escaped him to leave a washed-out expression, as though he were suffering from hypothermia. Benedict placed his hand on the man’s shoulder and gently guided him into my living room, as though he had been here before and knew what to do.
He noticed my large-screen television and said, “Perfect.” This TV had been the last straw in my financial ruin and I came to loathe it, sitting there in my living room like a giant, malicious goblin which, having been invited into my life, refused to leave. I had not switched it on for the past three months, yet still it seemed to possess a life of its own as it sat there watching over me.
Benedict pushed my coffee table aside, opened his case and placed a large plastic sheet over the floor, whistling merrily to himself as he then began laying out his tools. We both watched as he pulled out a piece of cord, a large mallet, a butcher’s clever, a chopping board and then a long, thin knife whose sharp edge glinted like a precious jewel in the blue light of my freshly awakened TV screen which he had switched on. He set up his laptop and a camera, then the TV screen came to life, displaying the plastic sheeting and the tools. I thought I could hear the goblin within it screeching like an excited chimpanzee.
Benedict rubbed his hands and explained, “We will soon go live. It’s very simple. The website has over twenty thousand subscribers who pay a large annual fee. In return they are guaranteed one weekly act of live mutilation or a fatal accident.” He looked at me and slowly said, “This is guar-an-teed—one or the other.” He went on, “Of course, you are both volunteers and do this of your own accord. It will be as if I am not here.”
At 17 Misconception Boulevard, Peter Softly was sitting at the kitchen table, holding Lily Smithe’s letter about her gas meter not being read and everybody drinking her milk. His eyes kept scanning the lines, trying to make sense of them, but though the words themselves seemed simple enough, he could not get to the meaning behind them. He read a few more words but still could make no sense of them. It seemed that wrong ideas must be in there somewhere, behind the words, and he knew he had to find those ideas before he could remove the monsters from people’s heads—for it was those wrong ideas that grew into the monsters that possessed everyone. He tried re‑reading another line.
Sally entered the kitchen and stood beside the table. She seemed to have had another go at rearranging her tracksuit—the trousers were now on right‑side out, but the top was inside out and one of the trouser legs seemed to be twisted back to front. She watched Peter but he stubbornly kept his eyes on the letter (—I know what he’s doing now; look at him—he’s deliberately ignoring me to try to make me think his trick in the living room worked. Well, it hasn’t, because I could see he was only pretending to strangle me—). She looked at her hand, so as to pick out her most emphatic finger, then pointed this at him and said, “Don’t think I don’t know what you’re up to.”
He “pretended” to have not heard her.
She recalled that contorted look on his face as he was pretending to strangle her and she gave her most emphatic finger a good shake and told him, “I can see exactly what you’re up to; I can see it in your face!”
He still pretended to have not heard.
She watched him for a moment, then reflected (—Now look at him; he’s now keeping quiet to make me do all the talking. Well, I won’t say another word; see how he likes it then). She clamped her lips together, determined to never utter another word to him—not, that is, until he saw how stupid he was being and started talking to her. She watched him in silence but he still deliberately ignored her while pretending to read his letter. Why, to look at the way he was frowning at it (she reflected) anybody would think—anybody who did not know him as well as she did—that he was trying to figure out some cryptic formula that could solve every problem in the world.
He shook his head doubtfully, turned the letter over, frowned at the other side, then shook his head again, put the letter aside, picked up another one, opened it and started frowning at that one.
Sally noticed that his hands were shaking. No doubt (she reflected) due to the terrific strain of maintaining this silence.

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